Friday, October 9, 2020
Headlines Daily Digest
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Elections & Media
Government & Communications
The Federal Communications Commission announced the final list of areas that will be eligible for bidding in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction, which will target up to $16 billion to census blocks with no fixed broadband service meeting the Commission’s minimum standards. In total, about 5.3 million unserved homes and businesses are located in areas eligible for bidding in the Phase I auction, which will begin on October 29. The auction will prioritize bids for the deployment of broadband networks providing higher speeds up to 1 Gbps and lower latency.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is investing $3 million to provide broadband service in unserved and underserved rural areas in Wisconsin. This investment is part of the $550 million Congress allocated to the second round of the ReConnect Program. Ntera, LLC will use a $3 million grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect 2,044 people, 33 farms and 33 businesses to high-speed broadband internet in Chippewa, Rusk, and Taylor counties in Wisconsin.
Comcast's broadband internet access service still has a heavy emphasis on download speeds, as even its gigabit-download service only comes with 35Mbps uploads. But that may not be the case forever, as the company announced a "technical milestone" that can deliver gigabit-plus download and upload speeds over existing cable wires. Specifically, Comcast said it conducted "a trial delivering 1.25Gbps upload and download speeds over a live production network using Network Function Virtualization (NFV) combined with the latest DOCSIS Technology." Comcast installed the service at a home in Jacksonville (FL), where "the technology team consistently measured speeds of 1.25 Gbps upload and 1.25Gbps download over the connection." The speeds were delivered over a hybrid fiber-cable network, with the coaxial cable providing the final connection into the home. That's nothing new—Comcast has been using both fiber and cable for years, but Comcast said the trial benefitted from the company's "ongoing effort to extend fiber further into neighborhoods." Normally, symmetrical gigabit speeds require a fiber-to-the-home connection. But many more homes have cable than fiber, so a symmetrical gigabit technology could be deployed faster if it doesn't require bringing fiber all the way to each building. Comcast did not say when (or whether) a symmetrical 1.25Gbps service will go on sale.
The roll-out of 10G will allow the emergence of more secure, lower latency broadband connections with dramatically faster speeds that eventually will be capable of delivering near symmetrical download and upload speeds of up to 10 Gbps. In addition, 10G networks will be the backbone of continued technological innovation, enabling a range of applications and use cases, as well as improving existing solutions in industries such as agriculture and telemedicine, bringing significant economic benefits.
- Network investment for 10G roll-out will lead to a contribution to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of roughly $126.7 billion and 376,000 job years over seven years.
- The range of applications and use cases enabled by 10G networks will generate economic benefits in the amount of $131.7 billion in cumulative GDP and 300,000 new jobs.
- The evolution of networks to 10G will generate $71.5 billion in consumer surplus.
- In total, the aggregate economic contribution of 10G in the United States will be nearly $330 billion.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a bright spotlight on the fact that we still need to connect all Americans with the best possible broadband, no matter whether they live in urban or rural areas or upper or lower-income neighborhoods. The problem is that too many have a shortsighted view of what “the best broadband” means. To some, it means “just good enough” – speeds or latency that may appear okay today but will fall short tomorrow. This myopic view makes no sense when you’re investing in networks meant to last for 10 or 20 years. To the members of our associations, “the best broadband” means a connection that meets the needs of families and businesses for years to come and whenever the next crisis hits. It means a network where upstream and downstream speeds are equally important. For these reasons, we need to aim higher and do better — and we cannot afford to resign rural or lower-income Americans to second-class service. Not everyone will get the best broadband right away, but we should not adopt policies and programs that aim for “just good enough” speeds today. We should not see “technological neutrality” become a codeword for awarding “soccer trophies” when it comes to broadband goals. We should not put ourselves in the position where, when another crisis arises, we’re wondering yet again why people don’t have robust and reliable connections at home. Instead, we need to drive investment in broadband infrastructure that will provide the kinds of performance consumers will want and need for years and even decades to come. That means driving more investment in fiber.
[Shirley Bloomfield is chief executive officer of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, which represents nearly 850 independent, community-based telecommunications companies across rural America. Lisa R. Youngers is the president and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association, the largest and only trade association in the Americas dedicated to the pursuit of all-fiber-optic network infrastructure.]
The Department of Defense announced $600 million in awards for 5G experimentation and testing at five US military test sites, representing the largest full-scale 5G tests for dual-use applications in the world. Each installation will partner military services, industry leaders, and academic experts to advance the Department’s 5G capabilities. Projects will include piloting 5G-enabled augmented/virtual reality for mission planning and training, testing 5G-enabled Smart Warehouses, and evaluating 5G technologies to enhance distributed command and control. The test sites include: Hill Air Force Base, Utah; Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington; Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia; Naval Base San Diego, California; and Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada.
The Trump Administration issued a National Strategy to Secure 5G, which we assessed against our 6 key characteristics for effective national strategies. The plan only partially addressed 5 of the 6 characteristics. For example, it didn't say what resources are needed to carry the plan out—which can make it hard to allocate and shift resources appropriately. We recommended that Administration officials ensure the strategy fully addresses all 6 characteristics. Until the Administration assures that the implementation plan fully addresses all elements of the six desirable characteristics, the plan will provide limited guidance to decision makers about allocating resources to address 5G risks and challenges.
T-Mobile is expanding its fixed wireless markets, bringing the service to 450 additional cities and towns. T-Mobile claims many of those markets are experiencing AT&T’s recent stoppage of new DSL orders, giving impacted subscribers a new option for home broadband. T-Mobile says this fixed wireless markets expansion will reach 20 million people. T-Mobile Home Internet uses 4G LTE-based fixed wireless service to deliver average speeds of 50 Mbps for $50 per month. There are no data caps for the service and T-Mobile says there are no equipment fees for the self-installed service either.
On October 27, the Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote to create the 5G Fund for Rural America, a new program supported by the Universal Service Fund. The 5G Fund will replace the FCC's existing Mobility Fund which has been used to support deployment of 4G LTE networks in rural, insular, and high cost areas of the country. The FCC will distribute up to $9 billion in universal service support to bring mobile voice and 5G broadband service to rural areas of the country. The deployment of networks capable of providing this 5G service undoubtedly will be expensive. Most providers are still in the early stages of deploying 5G networks, focusing mainly on urban areas; the 5G Fund aims to ensure deployment reaches sparsely-populated areas that may not offer obvious economic incentives for private investment. Here's a brief look at the proposal FCC commissioners will consider this month.
Recently the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled that the Federal Communications Commission doesn’t have to delay opening up the 6 Gigahertz spectrum band for unlicensed Wi-Fi. The court’s decision was in response to a request from public safety and utility organizations, as well as other groups such as AT&T, to grant a stay to the FCC order to open up the 6GHz band. These groups contend that the FCC’s decision could result in interference to the critical operations of entities that currently rely on that particular band. The court said it will still consider the case against the FCC’s order, despite its denial of the request to postpone the order.
The promise of 6Ghz Wi-Fi is counterbalanced by an increased risk of interference to utility and public safety activities, said Rob Thormeyer, a spokesperson for Utilities Technology Council (UTC), which filed a petition against the FCC. “[The FCC’s decision] is sort of an unforced error,” Thormeyer said. “We’re creating this new risk that didn’t exist before, and that only exists because of this decision. We believe that there are other spectrum bands that the FCC could have targeted for Wi-Fi use.”
On Sept 17, 2020, 36 Democratic and 2 Independent Senators wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to demand that the FCC take immediate action to help children who lack internet access at home and are unable to participate in online learning. Specifically, they called on Chairman Pai to utilize the E-Rate program to close this "homework gap" without further delay.
On Oct 1, Chairman Pai responded by listing different actions the FCC has taken to connect students during the pandemic, but to also noted the FCC is "limited in its ability to take the further action you request." He wrote, "The Commission must act within the bounds of the statutory authority given to the agency by Congress and use E-Rate program funding for broadband and other 'services' provided to school 'classrooms.' As such, wireless connectivity and devices supplied to students at home unfortunately do not qualify for E-Rate support under the law, regardless of whether they are being used for educational purposes. And because agencies only have the authority granted to them by Congress, we do not have the authority to waive these statutory requirements. That’s why we have been working, and will continue to work, with Congress on dedicated funding for remote learning to give students across this country an opportunity to connect with their teachers and online educational resources from home."
Benton (www.benton.org) provides the only free, reliable, and non-partisan daily digest that curates and distributes news related to universal broadband, while connecting communications, democracy, and public interest issues. Posted Monday through Friday, this service provides updates on important industry developments, policy issues, and other related news events. While the summaries are factually accurate, their sometimes informal tone may not always represent the tone of the original articles. Headlines are compiled by Kevin Taglang (headlines AT benton DOT org) and Robbie McBeath (rmcbeath AT benton DOT org) — we welcome your comments.
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